Jeff Bezos founded and built Amazon into an eCommerce juggernaut with a laser focus on the customer experience. Jim Collins coined the term the Flywheel effect to describe Amazon’s customer-centric business model.
“No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.” The Flywheel Effect, Jim Collins
The Amazon flywheel is customer experience... price, value, the rating system, the shipping speed, the vast variety of products, all contributing to an ever more amazing experience. Amazon has been relentlessly disciplined in identifying everything that can add momentum to the Flywheel and eliminating any friction that could slow its momentum. The cumulative effect of all of these efforts is that the Amazon flywheel has accelerated past the moment of inertia and created a self-sustaining feedback loop. A virtuous cycle where customers and third-party vendors are now the major sources of momentum.
Software that Accelerates the Flywheel
In a previous post: User Personas in Software Development I reviewed the critical need of a customer-centric process in software design and development:
“You can’t design a system for a user if you can’t put yourself in their shoes and see the world from their perspective. Digital experience design is all about empathy. Getting as deep an understanding as possible of anyone who will use the system you are designing or redesigning.”
So how does Flywheel methodology fit into User Personas and Software development? The Flywheel provides the context for user engagement within the system you are designing. Those contexts are dynamic as users relationship with the system evolves and changes over time. Static models and static personas won't work in the real world.
“A design is never meant for a single user. Rather, you design for one or more particular contexts in which many people might use that product.” Beware the Cut ‘n’ Paste Persona, Emanuela Cozzi and Lennart Overkamp.
Let’s take a website design and build as an example. I’ve adapted the flywheel chart that HubSpot used to describe their HubSpot flywheel methodology to model a website flywheel.
The website in our example would be only one slice of a bigger customer outreach strategy for a client. Our purpose here is not to cover the entire marketing and business model of a client. That is beyond our purview, we are software developers, not a marketing or management consulting agency. The purpose of this chart is to illustrate how the component (the website) that we design and build can add momentum and reduce friction for a client’s Flywheel and how the website itself can function as a flywheel.
Let’s look at the 4 parts of the Website Flywheel the above chart illustrates:
There may be multiple marketing channels a client is employing for promoting their product, service or brand and driving traffic. But in this example, only the website is within our scope. So how does the website itself attract strangers? SEO.
Search Engine Optimization is essentially the art and science of page experience. A client’s content may not be within a designers/developers control but presentation, flow, and site performance are. Structuring content in a way that Google can easily index and understand it. Presenting text and images in a design that is visually engaging and easy to follow. Ensuring page load speeds meet or exceed Google’s Core Web Vitals.
It is important that content producers, marketers, and other stakeholders on the client side and the developer establish a collaborative relationship in the agile iterative process of designing the digital experience. It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure there is nothing in the technology stack or build that will hamper SEO and that the HTML, CSS and any scripts are optimized for SEO. This can and should be done whether you are using a CMS like WordPress, a headless CMS or a JS framework like React. Any of these technologies can be made to be highly SEO friendly and fast using the right development strategies and tools.
The first metric that will determine whether a visitor engages is page load speed. A few additional seconds to load your page and you can lose the majority of visitors before they ever get a look at your site. In addition, those extra seconds will result in Google penalizing your SEO ranking.
If you have the performance to ensure that visitors will make it in the door then you have seconds to convince them to stick around. Not just your homepage but any page in your site might be the entry point from a search result and the first page a visitor sees. Is the experience relevant to the reason for their visit? Will they get rewarded immediately for their click or will they have to work at finding what they are looking for? Instant gratification is becoming the expectation of digitally empowered web users. Your site must deliver without any friction or effort.
Here understanding your user personas and the context at which they are coming to your site will provide you with the information you need to ensure a relevant experience. If you don't understand user desires and expectations at each phase of the flywheel cycle you can't deliver a relevant experience.
The visitor is now provisionally engaged. The initial impression was positive and they have not ‘bounced’. Now the experience of discovery must delight the user. No deer in the headlight moments, no friction in navigation, a minimum of clicks. A visually rich and engaging UX and UI that puts the user totally in charge and builds credibility and trust for the site’s business and brand and allows the user to complete whatever task that brought them to the site quickly and easily.
Context is critical. As users evolve from stranger to prospect to customer to evangelists their needs and expectations change. Remember you are designing for the various contexts in which users use the system. Personas change relative to context. People act differently in different environments. Will the site continue to reward users as they move through these stages?
This is the metric that measures the success of all the preceding efforts. Here is where visitors become part of the motive force accelerating your website flywheel. Encouraging visitors to request meetings through contact forms, signup for mailing lists, link to your site content, comments on content, and every other action you enable and incentivize. Through these acts of engagement, users become customers, followers and evangelists. As users evolve through the roles of stranger to prospect to customer to evangelists there should be calls to action and interactions that make sense for each of those phases of the customer journey.
Customer-Centric Software Development
Here at Intelifaz, we have employed an Agile model of software development since the companies inception. The Agile process of a collaborative effort with self-organizing and cross-functional teams, adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continual improvement, and flexible response is perfectly suited to the Flywheel methodology.
The Flywheel model provides a framework for ensuring that the customer and the customer’s success is at the center of all aspects of software development. Every app, website, and platform we create is a digital experience at the service of a user. Keeping the user and the contexts that the user engages with the experience as the focus of all development activities is vital to the success of any development project.
If you would like to see how all of this can help your business accelerate growth and increase the bottom line. Contact Us for a free, no-obligation strategic assessment of your unique needs.